Monday, January 26, 2015

10 reasons to explore Borneo, Malaysia - Part 1

Borneo is one heck of an incredible and mysterious country, where things go bump in the night and it’s usually a creature that is both exotic and rare. Craggy mountains, rainforests drenched in mist, winding wide rivers and relaxing times await for you there. Malaysia’s Borneo is a destination on many people’s bucket list for a reason, as it’s natural beauty will blow your bloomin’ mind and you’ll find yourself falling hard for those cute orange monkeys called Orangutans.

I began this post as a ‘10 Reasons to…’ but it quickly became apparent that if you had to read through my full list in one go, you would probably age about 2 years. I’ve broken it down into two posts, and this is the first half of my 10 Reasons to explore Borneo, which focuses on wildlife and the jungle.

Fly from Kuala Lumpur on the western peninsular of Malaysia over to Kota Kinabalu, which is the capital of the state of Sabah which is nestled in the northern tip. It’s the gateway to Borneo and makes a great starting point in your exploration of Borneo a.k.a. Malaysia’s eastern peninsular. You can go overland or by a super quick flight over to the east side, which has Sandakan and Sepilok’s world famous Orangutan centre.

It was the closest I’ve got to experiencing life a la Mowgli from The Jungle Book, despite not encountering a tiger (thank Jesus). Have a sneaky peruse at what I found to be it’s most glorious features and it will hopefully have you book a ticket over there quickly in case it’s beauty fades away from human destruction.

1. Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

OK, I’ll start with an important feature of Borneo which many associate with the country. And that of course, is the Orangutans. Those cute, fuzzy, orange darlings are what everyone wants to hold and cuddle when they head this way (I would’ve loved to be able to do that), but the most honourable way to see them is when they’re semi-rehabilitated and nearly integrated back into the wild.

The Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre lies in Sepilok, a mere half hour taxi ride from Sandakan’s airport.The centre was set up in the 1960’s to help orphaned orangutans get back to the wild and is set on the edge of the protected Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve. Along with other animals, such as sun bears and the occasional elephant, they are nursed to full strength and then released into the reserve. The Malaysian government has clamped down on illegal trading and poaching of Orangutans and have taken these measures to try and resurrect the sparse population.

Feeding times are like clockwork: a 10am feed and a 3pm feed. As the monkeys are pretty darn clever, they’ll make their way over to the feeding platform that is visible from a walkway to lazily take bananas from the workers. It’s lovely to see them emerge from the trees one after another to get their feed, but the less Orangutans you see the better. If they don’t return to the platform, it means they have the confidence and the skill to make it on their own out in the jungle. To try and encourage their independent foraging, they make the food as monotonous, yet nutritious, as possible.

The crowds are quite large to see these special creatures so get down there early! On our second visit, we were running a bit late and ran into a giant Orangutan who was equally as late to the feeding. He dropped straight out of the trees into our path and a few of us followed him with fingers pointing and mouths gaping, astounded that we were so close. I doubt he was very impressed.

2. Boat ride on the River Kinabatangan

In Sandakan, the River Kinabatangan snakes from the southwest mountains to the Sulu Sea. It’s the second longest river in Malaysia and is well-known for it’s bustling wildlife. Whilst the boat ride will see you picking out gibbons, rare birds, proboscis monkeys, rhino and other creatures, the reason as to why they are all so visible is quite sad.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: 10 reasons to explore Borneo, Malaysia - Part 1